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FORUM SELECTION CLAUSES - EX PARTE NAWAS INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL SERVICE, INC.

In Ex parte Nawas International Travel Service, Inc., [Ms. 1091720 Mar. 4, 2011] __ So. 3d __(Ala. 2011), the Alabama Supreme Court concluded that the plaintiffs' case should be dismissed based on an outbound forum selection clause. The plaintiffs scheduled a trip to Israel through a travel agency named Nawas International. The travel services agreement required that all disputes be litigated in Connecticut. During the plaintiffs' trip to Israel, the husband was injured while on a boat ride scheduled by Nawas International. Plaintiffs filed suit against Nawas, its vice president, and the Israeli boat owner. The trial court dismissed the boat owner (apparently on jurisdictional grounds) but denied Nawas and its vice-president's motions to dismiss that argued for enforcement of the forum selection clause. On mandamus, the plaintiffs argued that the forum selection clause was not enforceable: (1) enforcement of the clause would be "seriously inconvenient" because it would require the plaintiffs to litigate their case in two different forums (i.e., Connecticut and Israel); and (2) Nawas International could not enforce the clause because it was not registered to do business in Alabama as required by ALA. CODE ¤ 10-2B-15.02. The Supreme Court rejected both arguments. First, the Court emphasized that regardless of whether the forum selection clause was enforced, the plaintiffs would have to litigate in two forums because the boat owner had already been dismissed on jurisdictional grounds and would have to be pursued in Israel. Second, the Court concluded that ALA. CODE ¤ 10-2B-15.02 did not bar Nawas International from enforcing the forum selection clause because the agreement between Plaintiffs and Nawas International involved interstate commerce to which ALA. CODE ¤ 10-2B-15.02 does not apply. Accordingly, the Court concluded that the outbound forum selection clause was enforceable and, thus, granted Defendants' mandamus petition and ordered the trial court to dismiss the plaintiffs' case.

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